24 things I have learned since moving to Denmark…

So we have been here now for a little over six months. There now follows a decidedly disordered list of things I have learnt over those six months; things I realise I know little or nothing about but really should; things that surprised me; things I miss; things I love and things I really, really don’t:

  1. Danish bacon is not like English bacon. Take the streakiest bacon you ever had and then add some extra fat and that’s pretty much it. I miss English bacon (shhh, don’t tell the locals). Bacon here is also commonly sold in multipacks (the record thus far is five packs, connected in a strip: bacontastic).

    Mmmm, bacon

  2. Sausages are also pretty much the national dish and little fast food carts(Pølsevogn) selling sausages in bread rolls are everywhere. As with point 1 though, I also think British sausages are superior, sorry Denmark. Sadly not the easiest thing to bring back on an Easyjet flight…
  3. Danes are huge BBQ fans. Who knew? Many public parks have built-in barbecue facilities of some sort, and a casual glance up at the balconies of a typical apartment block will reveal that at last half of them feature a barbecue (the other 50% will probably have a pram, which leads me on to #4)…
  4. Prams are massive: as in huge, and ubiquitous. Partly this seems to be down to the Scandi policy of leaving infants to sleep outside in the fresh air (which I wholeheartedly approve of) and so prams of tank-like proportions [see below] provide both comfort, and the space for the little darlings to be wrapped up in dinky little mini-duvets (and pillows!) to keep them cosy: apparently it is quite normal for them to sleep outside down to temperatures of minus 10 degrees. It is also highly likely that the pram will be steered by a Hot Danish Dad, since there’s a much more even split in terms of who does the childcare run here (and that applies to school run too).

    Is it a pram or a tank?

  5. Prams on steroids: the first time I saw one of these I thought I was hallucinating, but they are actually a pretty common sight. Nurseries (or ‘vuggestues’) seem much more inclined to take the kids out and about and so these can often be seen in pairs with the nursery staff taking their charges off to the local playground or park.

    An even bigger pram. This is getting ridiculous…

  6. I’m in love…with our Nihola cargo bike…In Oxford we used our Burley double bike trailer to get the kids to and from school/childcare, but were lucky enough to be able to buy a used Nihola from our landlord here in Copenhagen and now I cannot imagine being without her. There’s more space for the two kids than in the trailer, and it is much easier cycling. We even use it for the weekly shop (minus the kids), though I confess I do miss the convenience of driving to the supermarket and loading up a massive boot-ful: not something I will ever take for granted again!

    Nihola bikes are the best!

  7. I don’t think I will ever be able to correctly pronounce a Danish word of more than two syllables, and if I simply accept that now, it’s probably for the best. That said, after almost 4 months of Danish classes (free, thank you Danish government), I can now just about hold a halting conversation of 2-3 sentences with some of the other three-year-olds at Anna’s kindergarten.
  8. My kids speak better Danish than I do. This was probably inevitable.
  9. Homesickness can hit you like a big cold grey wave. Best let it wash over you and hope that tomorrow is one of those glorious days with a piercing blue sky that makes you almost hum with joy as you cycle over the harbour and the water glitters like ten thousand tiny mirrors.

    On a good day, the school run looks like this…

  10. Danish kids TV is weird. This dude seems to feature pretty prominently.

    Herr Skaeg or Mr Beard to you…

  11. Awesome Danish Design is everywhere. From public buildings to your average person’s sitting room, we are swimming in beautiful architecture and Lovely Things. Sadly our budget does not stretch to buying Lovely Things, and so I must content myself with the occasional soulful mooch around the likes of Illums Bolighus to look at All the Lovely Things I might buy, if I could only afford to. That said, if you are lucky, and tenacious, there are Lovely Things to be found at:
  12. Flea Markets (or loppemarked): once the weather warms up in Spring these crop up in various locations every weekend (there are also a few in the run up to Christmas, but Spring/Summer is when the loppemarked season really gets going). Best bargains to date have been some gold Georg Jensen Christmas tree decorations and a Normann Copenhagen large metal bowl (these come in varying sizes and no self-respecting Danish home can be without at least one of them!). They are hugely popular with both locals and tourists, and on a sunny Sunday morning are my new favourite way to spend an hour or two.
  13. $$$$. Make no mistake, Copenhagen is an expensive city to live in. I have forced myself to stop comparing the prices of groceries with the equivalent price back home because it is too depressing. That said, there are a wealth of fantastic free activities on offer if you look for them – especially for families/kids. I’ll hopefully be blogging about a few more of those in the near future.
  14. I love the ‘flow’ of open plan apartment living with all our rooms on one floor. I most certainly do not love the ‘background noise’ of apartment life (I am looking at you lady upstairs with noisy TV habits in the wee small hours).
  15. I have absolutely no idea how I would have coped without Google: Google Maps and Google Translate basically enable 50% of day to day living in a new city/country – how on earth did people manage before the internet?
  16. Freelancer life can be a lonely existence and involves more coffee than is probably good for me… I need to get out more.
  17. Candles are great. Why has it taken me 44 years to realise this? The Danish concept of ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’: and if you have not heard of hygge you must have been living under a rock for the whole of 2016, there have been at least half a dozen bestselling books dedicated to hygge and how to find it, spawning heaven knows how many articles) – is essentially 50% candles, 25% cake, and 25% snuggling under sofa throws. Awesome. I knew there was a good reason we moved here. Your average Danish supermarket has an entire section devoted solely to candles.

    Pic by Jovi Waqa, Unsplash

  18. Make mine a beer…or 24. Before we moved here, a colleague whose parents were originally from Denmark mentioned something about the Danes all keeping slabs of beers in the fridge. I thought it a bit odd, smiled, and forgot about it. Fast forward a few months, and that’s exactly what we do…Drinking in a bar or restaurant here is very expensive (see #13) – typically you can buy 24 cans of beer in the supermarket for slightly less than one pint in a bar. ‘Open air drinking’ here is therefore also incredibly popular – one whiff of sunshine and there will be folk lined up all along Dronning Louise bridge or in the neighbourhood parks, cracking open a tinnie or two and shooting the breeze.
  19. The old guy in the apartment opposite airs out his duvet and bedsheet on the balcony Every Single Day. This is starting to weird me out a little, and make me feel somewhat slovenly. The airing of the duvets once a week is apparently a ‘thing’ here, but clearly Old Dude has too much time on his hands…
  20. Being an expat is hard work and occasionally you will just have to have a bit of a meltdown, cry a lot, and then get over yourself. Like this week.
  21. Reinventing yourself though can be a lot of fun, and very liberating, albeit with a few wrong turns and dead ends. Thanks are due to my amazing husband who is working like a Trojan so that I can try and figure out what it is I want to do with the next chapter of my life. If and when I do find out I will let you know…
  22. Denmark is supposedly one of the easiest countries in which to start up a new business, and there are a wealth of free resources and courses available via the local ‘kommune’ to help entrepreneurs and small businesses to get going and create successful companies. Some are even in English! Generally I have so far found Copenhagen to be an incredibly entrepreneurial city (especially in the tech and social good sector). There are hundreds of incredible startups here and I can get endlessly distracted by reading about them all.
  23. Living with your heart in two countries at once is discombobulating. Do I belong here, there, or nowhere? I love this city with a passion, on good days. I also miss my friends and family back ‘home’. But here also feels like home. Whilst networking my little heart out and making new friends there is also a voice in my head that questions putting all that effort in, if it is only temporary. How long we will stay I really have no idea (sorry Mum), but for now the adventure continues.
  24. When the sun is shining Copenhagen is (probably) the best capital city by miles. I am a lucky girl.

emmacthomas

4 Comments

  1. awww homesickness doesnt really get any easier to be honest – you just learn to stick your head further into the sand! ‘Ice queen’ status here after 12 years xxx

  2. Ehm…. I agree on bacon thing. But I have a problem with them British sausages being superior 🙂 Have fun!

    • Well, seen, but not patted! She’s a little underwhelming in the flesh, and has been vandalised at least twice since we moved here (nothing to do with our kids, naturally)…

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